Taking another little side-trip from the Dork Awards to discuss another comic that everybody’s talking about…
Star Wars 1, by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday
I wasn’t sure I was going to give this book a try. The last time I really enjoyed a Star Wars comic, I was maybe in middle school. I think Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson were doing the book then. Which says less about my taste at that age, and more about how lucky I was to have such a great creative team on a comic I probably would have enjoyed in the hands of any halfway competent writer and artist. But they left, my tastes changed, and I mostly stopped reading Star Wars comics.
I mean, last year’s The Star Wars intrigued me, but that was mainly because I was curious about what George Lucas’ original script looked like. Once I got the feel of the thing, I saw that the execution was leaving something to be desired and my interest waned pretty fast. And I liked the idea of Brian Wood’s Star Wars comic, set (like this one) between the first and second movies, but I’m hit and miss enough with Wood that I just decided to give it a miss.
This one, though… It’s got one hell of a creative team behind it. Probably the best since Goodwin and Williamson, in fact. I seldom go too far wrong with a Jason Aaron comic, and I’ve picked up books I otherwise despised (I’m looking at YOU, Joss Whedon X-Men!) just to gaze at John Cassaday’s pretty pretty pictures. So I figured… What the hell? It could only suck so bad, right?
But, hey! For once, those weren’t famous last words. This book actually didn’t suck. It was a pretty decent little Star Wars story, full of action and humor and so many of the things so many Star Wars comics get so very wrong. The cast is charming, for instance. They bicker. The relationships feel right. The situations have that sort of “caper” feel to them, where well-laid plans go horribly awry, and Our Heroes have to improvise their way out. It’s fun.
But it’s not great. I didn’t find it particularly exciting, for one thing, and that’s important for this kind of pulpy sci-fi nonsense. Also, it seemed to me that Aaron and Cassaday were working a little too hard to work in familiar Star Wars stuff. I love that they took four whole pages to give us the classic Star Wars opening…
…and I even kind of like that the disguises they use in the opening match the outfits Jabba the Hutt’s guards wore in Return of the Jedi:
They’re posing as emissaries of Jabba, after all, so that makes sense. But the little details kind of piled on after that, and by the time we got to a room full of Imperial Walkers, I was starting to feel like the comic was continually poking me, and going, “Hey remember this thing? And this other thing? And what about this?! I KNOW you remember THIS!” And that got on my nerves.
I also wasn’t sure about the effectiveness of space kung fu on dudes wearing full body armor.
Then there’s this thing about how often the Millennium Falcon is mistaken for garbage, which (if I can nit-pick for a moment) is a reference to something from The Empire Strikes Back, and thus happened well after the events of this story. Sorry to be the stereotypical fanboy there…
…but if you’re going to trade on that much specific shit from the movies, you better get it right.
Not that this ruins the comic or anything. There’s some great cocky hare-brained Han Solo scheming, an opportunity for hilarity with C-3PO, a chance for Princess Leia to get in on the ass-kickery, a pretty bad-ass Chewbacca moment…
…and there’s this dude named Luke Skywalker in it, too. He’s got a laser sword and talks to people who aren’t there. He’s kind of a big deal, I guess.
I’m also pleased that I can already see Aaron delving into how things went from the status quo at the end of Star Wars to the situations and relationships we see at the beginning of Empire. That includes the Han/Leia romance, the change in the Rebels’ fortunes, and exactly how it is that Darth Vader finds out it was Luke who destroyed the Death Star.
(And, holy crap, I hope we see the ramifications of THAT little discovery….)
So, yeah. It didn’t suck. But was it five whole dollars’ worth of Not-Suck? Hmm. I’m gonna have to think on that a bit. The highway robbery of that cover price IS ameliorated a bit by the fact that this first issue gave us 33 pages of story. Granted, four of those pages were given over to the classic movie opening, with an additional page devoted to movie-style end credits. But I’m okay with that. It sets the proper tone, and (as I think I’ve said before) graphic design is content. Or, at least it is when it’s done this well.
If future issues are shorter and cheaper, and if the creative team gets over its “HERE IS THIS THING YOU REMEMBER” fetish, it might be worth the money. Or it might be something I read digitally. A year or two from now. When the price drops.
Or maybe if we get more of THIS guy…
Only time will tell.